Marriage in trouble, wife refuses relationship counseling. What next?
June 21, 2014 5:05 PM Subscribe
My wife Jane and I are in our 40s and have been together for eight years. We got along well for the first few years, but things have been steadily going south since then. In theory, we both want to improve our marriage, but we are not making much progress on our own. I could use some advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Problem #1: Contrasting personalities
Jane and I are two very different people with divergent interests. We originally got together because we are both huge animal-lovers (and also hard-core vegans, for reasons of animal rights). We also found out that neither of us has ever wanted to have children. Aside from these areas of concordance, we agree on little else.
Jane is outgoing and is the quintessential life of the party. I’m shy, quiet, and bit awkward. She likes to knock ’em back, I don’t drink. I’m quite happy to sit for hours in front of a computer, working on a programming project. Jane is very talkative and requires constant attention when we’re home (she often accuses me of not listening). I’m interested in science and technology – but not current affairs. Jane listens to NPR and follows political blogs. I’m reserved – Jane is emotional. She’s capable of far more empathy and kindness than I am, but she’s also volatile – she can be irritable, critical, and quick to anger. Her outbursts cause me anguish. I’m a bit of a slob, whereas she is organized and very particular (I often run afoul of her rules). She was a jock in high school and still plays in a number of different sports leagues; I wouldn’t know which end of the volleyball stick to hold.
These differences in life philosophy bring us to the next problem:
Problem #2: Lack of fun or rewarding activities that we can do together
It’s quite sad, but we have trouble finding activities that we can both truly enjoy.
Jane used to coerce me into attending her games and going out drinking with friends, but she has since given up on it, because I’m always miserable during these outings. Now she goes without me. She likes to go to movies; I enjoy only documentaries (she does not). I like going on camping trips and renting a powerboat; she hates these trips.
Jane expends enormous amounts of time and money doing animal-rescue work. Our finances are strained by these expenditures, and I often get sucked into her projects at the expense of pursuing my own interests. The reason I’m stalled on my programming endeavors (which are very important to me) is that I’m spending so much time helping Jane with her projects. This conflict is a major on-going source of contention between us. Jane always argues that I knew about her priorities right from the start.
We do both enjoy going out on dinner dates, but we do it rarely – maybe once every couple of months. We also enjoy going for nature walks together and taking photographs, but again – we do this maybe once or twice a year. Why don’t we do this more often? I dunno. Hectic schedules, low priority…
I had the idea that maybe we could take some short classes together (photography, vegan cooking), but she hated this idea. She said she’s done with taking classes. She won’t go on MeetUp outings, either.
I’ve tried to persuade Jane to attend couples counseling, but she absolutely refuses. She claims that a counselor could not possibly provide any insights or solutions. But I think the real reason she doesn’t want to go to counseling is that the status quo favors her, so that any compromises or changes would necessarily involve more sacrifice on her part than on mine. I suppose I could go without her, but I know that doing so would really piss her off.
As it stands now, we go through periods of a week or two when we get along reasonably well, then we’ll have a huge fight that lingers for several days, followed by a week or two of relative détente. This type of cycling is no way to live. And even during our calm phases, we aren’t nearly as close as we used to be.
As I sit here re-reading my essay, I’m disheartened by the sheer magnitude of our problems. A divorce would be messy and would cause huge financial hardships, and neither one of us wants to split up.
I could sure use an outside perspective on this situation.